Parenting

You're not fat, I promise — a message to my daughter

Katie wants Sophie to know from day one that what you weigh doesn't determine your happiness.

Gorgeous girl on the slide with her daddy.

There’s a picture of me, from the day I graduated high school, that never fails to make me cringe. I’m standing in the cafeteria with my friends, farthest to the left, as we waited to go to grad mass in the school gym. I’m wearing a long skirt with a blue print, a white cardigan over a white t-shirt and flat sandals. My hair is loose — clearly an occasion because my hair was (and still is) almost always pulled into some sort of messy topknot. I look crazy happy (and I remember being crazy happy). But when the pictures were developed (yes, on film) I didn’t see the ecstatic look on my face or the way my hair curled prettily around my shoulders. I saw only the little spaghetti-strap sundresses on my slim friends and felt fat. But that’s not why the picture makes me cringe.

The prom dress I wore later that week was a size eight, so you can imagine how not-fat I really was. Now the photo makes me crazy because I want to go back in time and tell my 18-year-old self that she looked beautiful that day. That her slimmer friends did not make her any less pretty. That the excitement on her face means so much more than the size of her thighs. But I can’t, so I’ve decided instead to settle for imparting this message to Sophie.

Blaine and I are currently on Weight Watchers — we have been since July — and while it’s slow going, it has forced us to reevaluate the way we plan snacks and meals, how much we exercise and what we’d been doing to sabotage ourselves. Between us we’ve lost more than 50 pounds (with Blaine getting most of the credit for that. Stupid men with their faster metabolisms). Blaine took a picture of me out at dinner the other day and I noted that the extra weight I held in my face post-Sophie had all but disappeared.

As I flipped back through the snaps on my phone to see if the face-thinning was in my head (because I’m a silly vain girl sometimes — everyone is, once in a while), I stumbled upon shots of myself in the early months of Soph’s life. I know I was wearing the largest size I’ve ever worn then and, previous to now, I tried not to look too hard at these candids, what with a niggling feeling of embarrassment. But this time I really looked at the pictures of my baby girl huddled on my (rather ample) chest, at the side shots of my stomach when I’m giving her a bath, etc. It’s graduation all over again. The happiness and excitement is palpable. And when Soph grows up and wants to see what her first days were like, I will show her the look on my face (and not even mention the size of my ass). Because it’s about being present in your life, and not worrying about what you look like in the moment.

Am I happy about our weight loss? Sure. Does it define me? Absolutely not.

Sophie, the happy defines you far more than your appearance ever will. The day I graduated high school, the day you were born… pinnacle moments in the story of my life. What size I was on those days played no part in how I felt; the goosebumps that prickled my arms were there just the same when they called my name to get my diploma and when the nurse placed your gorgeous little body on my chest, no matter what I weighed.